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Editorial

Flag of Canada: Alternate Designs

national flag is a simple, effective way of identifying a country and expressing its collective will and sovereignty. Its symbolism should be expansive, representing perspectives from across the country. But it should also be singular, offering a picture of unity. For almost a century, Canada did not fly a flag of its own. There were instead the Union Jack and the Canadian Red Ensign. They took turns flying above Parliament. But neither was distinctly Canadian, nor permanent. The issue of a new flag was raised in Parliament in 1925 and again in 1945. It was dropped both times due to a lack of consent. Some clung to tradition, and none could agree on a unifying symbol. When Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson re-opened the debate in 1964, he offered Canadians the chance to “say proudly to the world and to the future: ‘I stand for Canada.’” A joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons was assembled to decide on a suitable design. After months of vigorous debate, the final design was unfurled at Parliament Hill on 15 February 1965. The design process was open to the public. Thousands of suggestions were submitted. This article looks at 12 of those designs. It includes explanations for the symbols found in each. The designs express a vision for Canada, still young and still finding its mode of self-expression.

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Editorial: The Stanley Flag and the “Distinctive Canadian Symbol”

Prime Minister Lester Pearson and John Matheson, one of his Liberal Members of Parliament, are widely considered the fathers of the Canadian flag. Their names were front and centre in 2015 during the tributes and celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the flag’s creation. But the role played by George Stanley is often lost in the story of how this iconic symbol came to be.

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National Flag of Canada

The National Flag of Canada, also known as the Canadian Flag or the Maple Leaf Flag (l’Unifolié in French), consists of a red field with a white square at its centre in which sits a stylized, 11-pointed red maple leaf. A joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons voted for the present flag in 1964 against formidable odds. After months of debate, the final design, adopted by Parliament and approved by royal proclamation, became Canada’s official national flag on 15 February 1965.

Editorial

Editorial: The Canadian Flag, Distinctively Our Own

On 15 February 1965, at hundreds of ceremonies across the country and around the world, the red and white Maple Leaf Flag was raised for the first time. In Ottawa, 10,000 people gathered on a chilly, snow-covered Parliament Hill. At precisely noon, the guns on nearby Nepean Point sounded as the sun broke through the clouds. An RCMP constable, 26-year-old Joseph Secours, hoisted the National Flag of Canada to the top of a specially-erected white staff. A sudden breeze snapped it to attention.

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The Great Flag Debate

The long and often bitter debate over the new Canadian flag began in the House of Commons on 15 June 1964. It ended by closure on 15 December 1964. Feelings ran high among many English Canadians. Opposition leader John Diefenbaker demanded that the flag honour Canada’s “founding races” and feature the Union Jack. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson insisted on a design that conveyed allegiance to Canada while avoiding colonial association. A prolonged, heated debate ensued. Historian Rick Archbold described it as “among the ugliest in the House of Commons history.” The new flag, designed by George Stanley with final touches by graphic artist Jacques Saint-Cyr, was approved on 15 December 1964 by a vote of 163 to 78. The royal proclamation was signed by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 January 1965. The national flag was officially unfurled on 15 February 1965.

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Acceleration

Acceleration is a thriller about teenage slackers in Toronto who track down a mysterious psychopath. The mystery by Canadian author Graham McNamee was first published in hardcover by Wendy Lamb Books in 2003. It was released in paperback by Ember in 2012. Acceleration won a prestigious Edgar Award as best young adult mystery from the Mystery Writers of America, as well as an Arthur Ellis Award for excellence in Canadian crime writing from the Crime Writers of Canada. It was also included in the “Best Books for Young Adults” list compiled by the American Library Association in 2004.

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Life of Pi

Yann Martel’s third novel, Life of Pi (2001), follows protagonist Piscine “Pi” Patel on a journey of survival after the cargo ship carrying him and his family sinks in the Pacific Ocean. As the lone survivor, Pi spends 227 days on a lifeboat in the company of a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The fantasy-adventure novel explores the tensions between spirituality and practicality, and between reason and imagination. It also raises questions about the nature of stories. The international bestseller gained Martel global recognition and won a number of awards and accolades, including the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. The 2012 film adaptation, written by David Magee and directed by Ang Lee, grossed more than US$600 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards.

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Shattered

Eric Walters’s young adult novel Shattered (2006) tells the story of Ian Blackburn. He is shaken out of his privileged life when he meets Jack, a homeless veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. A member of the failed United Nations peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, Jack introduces Ian to some of humanity’s darkest moments. Shattered received the 2007 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award for best Canadian children’s book and the 2007 National Chapter of Canada International Order of the Daughters of Empire Violet Downey Book Award.

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Crow Lake

Crow Lake is the debut novel by Mary Lawson, a Canadian-born author who lives in Britain. Set in a fictional community in Northern Ontario, Crow Lake tells the story of four children who are orphaned after their parents are killed in a traffic accident. Published in 2002, the novel was a best-seller in Canada and the United States. It has been published in more than two dozen countries and in several languages. It won the Books in Canada First Novel Award (now the Amazon.com First Novel Award) in 2003, as well as the McKitterick Prize for a first novel published in the United Kingdom by an author older than 40. In 2010, CBC Radio listeners selected Crow Lake as one of the Top 40 essential Canadian novels of the decade. It was also listed as one of 150 books to read for Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017.

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Crabbe

William Bell’s first novel, Crabbe (1986), tells the story of a disaffected teenager who escapes to the wilderness, only to learn that running away will not solve his problems. Crabbe has become a popular choice for school curricula across North America. A 2017 study found that it was among the 20 most-cited books in Ontario classrooms. It was one of only three Canadian books on the list, along with Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The literary quarterly Canadian Literature attributed the book’s longevity to its “convincing narrative voice” and “precisely observed sense of detail.”

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The First Stone

Award-wining writer Don Aker’s The First Stone tells the story of Reef, an embittered and troubled young man who, in a mindless rage, hurls a rock from an overpass and injures Leeza, who is in mourning for an older sister. The two teenagers unexpectedly come together to begin the slow process of healing. The First Stone was first published in 2003 by HarperTrophy Canada. It won the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award and Atlantic Canada’s Ann Connor Brimer Award in 2004. It was also one of five young adult novels selected for CBC Radio’s “Young Canada Reads” series in 2006.

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Railway History in Canada

The development of steam-powered railways in the 19th century revolutionized transportation in Canada and was integral to the very act of nation building. Railways played an integral role in the process of industrialization, opening up new markets and tying regions together, while at the same time creating a demand for resources and technology. The construction of transcontinental railways such as the Canadian Pacific Railway opened up settlement in the West, and played an important role in the expansion of Confederation. However, railways had a divisive effect as well, as the public alternately praised and criticized the involvement of governments in railway construction and the extent of government subsidies to railway companies.

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Canadian Shield

The Canadian Shield refers to the exposed portion of the continental crust underlying the majority of North America. The crust, also known as the North American Craton, extends from northern Mexico to Greenland and consists of hard rocks at least 1 billion years old. With the exception of the Canadian Shield, the rocks of the North American Craton are buried deep within the continent and covered by soil and other material. At 5 million km2, the Shield makes up roughly 50 per cent of Canada’s land mass. Shaped like a horseshoe — or the shields carried during hand-to-hand combat — the Canadian Shield extends from Labrador in the east to include nearly all of Québec, much of Ontario and Manitoba, the northern portion of Saskatchewan, the northeast corner of Alberta, much of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and into the Arctic Archipelago. (It also reaches into parts of the United States, in New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota.) While at times a barrier to settlement, the Shield has also yielded great resources, including minerals, coniferous forests and the capacity for hydroelectric developments.

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Boreal Zone

The boreal zone is Canada’s largest vegetation zone, making up 55 per cent of the country’s land mass. It extends from Yukon and northern British Columbia in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador in the east. While much of the region is covered by forest, it also includes lakes, rivers, wetlands and naturally treeless areas. The boreal zone is home to diverse wildlife, and is crucial to maintaining biological diversity, storing carbon, purifying air and water, and regulating the climate. With more than 2.5 million Canadians living in the boreal zone, the forest also provides these rural communities with jobs and economic stability.

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Maple Syrup Industry

Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of maple products, accounting for 71 per cent of the global market. In 2016, Canadian producers exported 45 million kg of maple products, with a value of $381 million. The province of Québec is by far the largest producer, representing 92 per cent of Canadian production. Maple syrup and maple sugar products are made by boiling down the sap of maple trees. World production of maple syrup and sugar is mainly limited to the Maple Belt, the hardwood forest stretching from the midwestern United States through Ontario, Québec and New England and into New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; however, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also produce some syrup.

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Mineral Resources

Minerals are naturally-occurring, homogeneous geological formations. Unlike fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, minerals are inorganic compounds, meaning they are not formed of animal or plant matter.

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Grey Cup

The Grey Cup is a trophy produced by Birks Jewellers that has been part of Canadian sports since 1909, when it was donated by Governor General Earl Grey for the Canadian football championship.

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The Last Spike

The Last Spike was the final and ceremonial railway spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track by company director Donald Smith on the morning of 7 November 1885. The ceremony marked the completion of the transcontinental CPR and was a muted affair at which a group of company officials and labourers gathered at Craigellachie near Eagle Pass in the interior of British Columbia. One of about 30 million iron spikes used in the construction of the line, the Last Spike came to symbolize more than the completion of a railway. Contemporaries and historians have viewed the Last Spike — as well as the iconic photographs of the event — as a moment when national unity was realized.